Here is the second installment of our 2008 Major League Baseball mock draft by sports blogger Aaron Schafer. He's running down the who the top fifteen teams could pick in the first round. The following are picks six through ten. Look for picks eleven through fifteen in the coming days. For the top five picks, click here. The draft will be held June 5 and 6.
I think Florida goes with a bat here, and takes a local guy who's a bit less expensive than some of the other high profile offensive players. Yonder Alonso still offers an advanced, polished bat, with a stroke that has a bit of Will Clark in it, and may be versatile enough to play a little outfield if necessary. More likely, though, he stays at first and moves quickly through a system that's a little light on offensive talent and arrives in the big leagues as soon as September of '09.
7. Cincinnati Reds: Eric Hosmer, First Base, American Heritage High School The Reds have built up an impressive array of young talent the last few years, primarily by drafting high upside prep school players and aggressively signing international talent. I don't expect them to change their drafting strategy at the moment; if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
The Reds have gone heavy on pitching recently, and I think they'll take a position player here. There are two high school hitters that really stand out above the other here, Kyle Skipworth and Eric Hosmer. Skipworth is probably the more intriguing player overall, as he offers an extremely rare skill set at catcher, but Hosmer is the best prep bat in the draft. In fact, some scouts have gone so far as to call him the best bat in the draft, period.
The Reds took a catcher in the first round last year, so I think they'll pass on Skipworth. I see them taking Hosmer, and just paying the piper to get him, as he's advised by Scott Boras. The Reds haven't shied away from Boras clients in the past, so I don't think that's a huge issue. They do have Joey Votto, a very good young first baseman, just coming into his own in Cincinnati, but Votto, while a nice player, isn't the sort of player that really makes you avoid taking a guy with the upside of Hosmer, just because of position. The Reds take the best bat here, and Hosmer's the guy.
8. Chicago White Sox: Kyle Skipworth, Catcher, Patriot High School, (Riverside, CA) In the last couple of drafts, the White Sox have swung for the fences. I see that trend continuing here, with them taking the highest upside player still on the board. Their system as a whole is very thin, so it's tough to really say they would favor one position or type of player over another, but I think they'll be slightly more likely to draft a position player, with nothing but a complete hunch to really inform that feeling.
They also have shown a willingness to shell out the dough, and they won't back away from Skipworth because of his bonus demands. For his part, Skipworth is the closest thing you'll ever see to a five-tool catcher. He has a polished, powerful bat from the left side of the plate, arm strength that rates anywhere from a 65-70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, (50 is an average grade for any tool) and even has the speed to be a threat on the base paths. I don't see a player with the potential upside of Skipworth falling past the Sox, who have shown a newfound aggressiveness in drafting recently.
9. Washington Nationals: Gordon Beckham, Short Stop, University of Georgia The Nationals are a team on the rise. They've drafted very well the last couple of years, and they've added significant talent through canny trading. Gordon Beckham is a player on the rise. He has, probably, the most helium of any player in this draft, going from a potential late first round/early supplemental pick to a guy who is being looked at as a possible top five pick, due to a huge spring with the bat. I don't think he quite makes it to the top five, but he makes a nice pick for Washington here at ninth.
The Nationals loaded themselves down with pitching talent in last year's draft, and I think they'll go for the best bat available. It's debatable who that is, Beckham or Justin Smoak, the first baseman from South Carolina. The Nationals appear to be committed to Chris Marrero as their first baseman of the future, though, so Beckham looks like the better fit. He looks to be seeking a major league contract, and the Nationals have shown a willingness to be creative with their offers, giving Jack McGeary, a high school lefty, a contract last year that allows him to attend school full time for three years, so working out a deal shouldn't be difficult. Beckham should move quickly, and form an excellent complement on the left side of the infield to Ryan Zimmerman, the Nat's current All-Star third-baseman.
10. Houston Astros: Justin Smoak, First Base, University of South Carolina The Astros' farm system is a mess. They sold off much of what fairly thin talent they had over the off-season to bring in Miguel Tejada, after failing to sign a single draft pick before the fifth round last year. They had forfeited several early draft picks as compensation for signing free agents, and Drayton McLane, their owner, refused to go over slot at all for any players, leading to one of the most nightmarish drafts in recent history.
The Astros need a serious shot in the arm, and I think they probably start with the best offensive talent available. Justin Smoak is the best bat on the board here, and while he won't exactly be a cheap sign, he's also not going to completely break the bank. His offensive talent is undeniable, and, while he's limited defensively to first base, the ‘Stros don't appear to be locked in at first to anyone, with Lance Berkman being versatile enough to play some in the outfield. Even if they do choose to stick with Berkman at first long-term, Smoak represents an extremely good commodity on the trading market, as a player who won't be too far away from the major leagues the moment he signs a contract. To try and bring in an immediate infusion of talent to a barren system, I think the Astros make the right call here and draft Smoak, the best bat still on the board.
Thus concludes part two of my shot-in-the-dark predictions. Stay tuned for picks eleven through fifteen, including who the Cardinals could pick, in the coming days.
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